Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wonderful Old Pictures Can Solve Family Mysteries – Or Really Stir Things Up!

Photos from old family albums can be gold, filling in blanks and answering questions. They can also raise more questions than they answer.

Here's a prime example from Sarah Eva Howe's scrapbooks. Thanks to someone who long ago wrote
names at the bottom of this charming image, we know the boy on the left is Bob Salyers (1880-1897). On the right is Bob's big brother Will Salyers (1878-1944), who would grow up to be Sarah's husband. Both were sons of Charles David Salyers and Katherine King Salyers of Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky. Other family photos confirm this.

Who is the child in the center? The writing says "Ida K." (Or could it be Ida R? When I enlarge the image, I can see a faint loop that, if intentional, would make the K an R.) I can find no record of an Ida Salyers born to Charles and Katherine – or to anybody else at that time in or near Carrollton.

Time to play detective. I think Will appears to be about 10 years old in this photo. That would date the image to 1888 or so. Ida appears to be no older than 2, which places her birth year at 1886, give or take.

Now things get complicated. The mother of the two boys, Katherine King Salyers, died in 1883 at the age of 25. Family lore says that Katherine had a baby that year but that the child died in infancy. We can speculate that maybe both mother and child died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. Even if the child had been a girl and had lived, she would have been 5 years old by 1888. The baby in the picture is certainly not that old.

Could Ida have been a half-sister to the boys? Their father married Flora Geier on 28 April 1887, four years after Katherine died. A baby could have come along soon thereafter, but that child would have been an infant when this photo was made. Besides, I can find no record of any child born to Charles and Flora.

Note, too, that the names written below the image include the Salyers surname for the boys but not for Ida. Is that significant? Are we to assume she is a Salyers – or that she is not?

I appeal to you, dear readers, especially those with Carrollton or Salyers family ties. Can you shed any light on this mystery?

In the meantime, I'll share with you this image sent to me by Bill Davis of Carrollton. He reports that his brother lives in this house on Highland Avenue, next to the funeral home. The house was once home to  Charles D. Salyers. The 1920 U.S. Census shows Charles, age 70, living here with his second wife Flora, age 69, and Flora's sister, 70-year-old Sallie Grier. The house address is noted as "farm." Ten years before, the same three people lived on High Street.

What a treat to have this image – and to see the house in a street view on Google Maps! I look forward to visiting Carrollton one of these days to see it for real – and maybe ask the owner if I might peek inside. I also hope to learn where Charles lived while his boys Will and Bob were growing up. See you soon, Carroll County courthouse!

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